Giannis Antetokounmpo Covers SLAM 234, AVAILABLE NOW!

“Hey, BJ, that is Giannis. Is it cool if I come over to your home for the get together?”

I bear in mind getting that textual content in 2018, shortly after I got here again to the Bucks for a quick time. I used to be internet hosting a group get together at my home in Los Angeles and invited everyone on the squad. And Giannis, who’s a star by then, hits me as much as ask if it’s OK if he comes by means of. Giannis! I’m like, “Hell yeah! In fact!”

That’s simply who Giannis is. He’s one of many humblest folks I’ve ever met. You’ll be able to simply inform he’s very grateful for the whole lot. When he was strolling out of my home after the get together ended, he was like, Yo, BJ! Loopy get together. Crazyyy get together! It’s little moments like that. Giannis being Giannis. 

SLAM 234 featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo is available now!

He and I related a bit throughout that 2017-18 season. After I left the Bucks and he grew to become an MVP, he confirmed as much as the Drew League in L.A. after I was hooping. He watched the sport and we talked for a bit. I all the time needed to respect his peace however was tuned in and rooting for him alongside the best way. He was among the best gamers within the League by 2018 however was nonetheless coming into his personal as a frontrunner. I feel these final couple of years he’s in all probability turn into extra vocal than he was. I imply, all of us noticed within the playoffs, when he was within the huddle screaming at his teammates to inspire them and stuff like that. He wasn’t actually like that after I was there, however that’s simply development. That’s simply changing into extra snug. To me, he was all the time making an attempt to study and get higher. At all times. His work ethic actually stood out to me. He was displaying as much as the gymnasium early and can be the final particular person to go away. The whole lot was constant. That’s one factor I’ve all the time admired about him—that consistency.

From day one, even after we weren’t teammates [Giannis’ rookie season in Milwaukee was the first season Brandon played for Detroit after four seasons with the Bucks.—Ed.], I might inform Giannis had potential. I bear in mind taking part in in opposition to him throughout his first few years after I was with the Pistons. Studying about his historical past and the way lengthy he had been taking part in ball, I knew he had an opportunity to be nice. I’ve to say, although, as a result of I used to be re-watching previous highlights not too long ago—I used to be reminded of this play from my time in Detroit. I stole the ball, had a breakaway and dunked it when Giannis was making an attempt to dam it. Then I appeared again at him. So yeah, that was my one dunk on the Greek Freak. I’ll take it. 

Now that very same man—the one who as soon as texted me for permission to come back to my get together—simply introduced a championship to the town of Milwaukee. Not simply that, however in my view, he’s turn into the very best participant on the earth. A two-time MVP. The 2020 Defensive Participant of the Yr. 

An NBA Champion.

The 2021 Finals MVP. 

I used to be very grateful for the chance to witness these newest accomplishments in particular person. Being at Recreation 6—it was indescribable. The feelings, the joy, the power, 65,000 folks outdoors. It was the primary time I had been to the brand new enviornment. I had by no means seen the town that turnt. Going to the sport, I used to be taking a look at all of the Giannis jerseys and joking with my lady, like, “Wow, these was my jerseys.” It was surreal.

Fact is—these courtside seats had been speculated to be for Kanye. Two hours earlier than tipoff, he informed them he couldn’t make it, so that they ended up giving them to me. I used to be simply, like, “Yo, it’s lit!” I had been caught at house due to COVID and dealing laborious on my model, Tuff Crowd, in order that was my first NBA sport all 12 months. I used to be simply absorbing the second—sitting subsequent to Dave Chappelle, connecting with the followers, and, after all, cheering for the squad. 

The ambiance in that enviornment was insane. It actually took me again. It introduced again some unimaginable recollections. Whereas I used to be sitting there, in my thoughts, I thought of my 55-point evening as a rookie in opposition to Golden State. I thought of my game-winning three in opposition to Cleveland. I thought of us being down 0-2 in opposition to Atlanta, returning to the Bradley Middle and successful Video games 3 and 4. I thought of these particular occasions when the town was alive.

After I first got here to Milwaukee in 2009, the Bucks hadn’t made the playoffs for 3 straight seasons. I got here in with a variety of hearth as a result of I didn’t get to play loads the 12 months earlier than after I was in Italy. I had loads to show getting into the League. I had a chip on my shoulder. And I used to be speaking loopy. I don’t know if Milwaukee knew what they had been getting with me. I simply know that these first handful of video games after I got here out, was rocking with the group and had all these totally different hairstyles—I simply felt like an early trendsetter. It felt like the beginning of a brand new period in Milwaukee. 

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And I felt a robust bond with the town instantly. What’s loopy is, throughout my first few seasons, I didn’t even return to my hometown in Los Angeles. I stayed in Milwaukee for the summer season and the whole lot. I used to be residing there all all year long, simply being across the metropolis and getting concerned locally. My years in Milwaukee had been about extra than simply basketball. The followers had been so loyal. We made the playoffs twice whereas I used to be there, so I had a reasonably good four-year run earlier than being traded to the Pistons. I used to be in a position to depart somewhat mark. And to see how the tradition has continued to develop—you realize, that “Bucks in 6” tradition. It’s superb. What a time to be alive proper now.

To me, “Bucks in 6” isn’t just an expression—it’s a mindset. It defines the town of Milwaukee. It’s an method to battle. The more durable you’re employed throughout peace, the much less you bleed throughout conflict. Whenever you’re battling and also you’re down, it doesn’t matter what, you gotta maintain combating and maintain pushing by means of that wall. Since you simply by no means know. After I mentioned it again within the day, folks thought I used to be loopy. We had been the No. 8 seed taking part in LeBron James and the Warmth—the very best group on the earth. The long run champs. However I had this mindset of simply maintain combating. That’s that blue-collar, Milwaukee mindset. Clearly, you’re not going to say you’re going to lose at something in life. We’re all the time making an attempt to win. Typically it’s going to be more durable, if we’re being real looking. However I’m not going to say we’re going to lose. Ever.

This Bucks squad had that mindset this season. And now they’re champions. The parade—man, that was ridiculous. I initially thought I used to be getting on the group bus. They had been like, “Nah, we bought you your individual automotive.” So in my head, I’m like, “Oh, shit! Okay, let’s do that.” I might hear the “Bucks in 6” chants from the group. We hit that first nook and somebody tossed me my first beer. I drank it and chucked it. The followers had been simply going nuts. By the point we bought towards downtown, I used to be already, like, 10 beers in. Everyone who was tailgating and celebrating simply stored giving me beers. And I stored ingesting them and stored chucking them. I nearly threw up, like, twice to be sincere. It’s like, “Bro, I’m on my fifteenth one. I’m drained.” By the point we bought to the speeches, I had drunk about 20 beers. I used to be completed. 

However general, I had a tremendous time. I used to be so grateful to be part of that celebration with the town, and to have the followers embrace me. Partying with PJ Tucker was wild, too. After the parade, we had been getting drunk at some water park bar. It was unreal, having fun with these moments with all the group. Hopefully I can develop a fair stronger connection to the group going ahead. My dream is to turn into inventive director, so we’ll see…

I additionally should shout out Giannis for repping Tuff Crowd on the parade. That was actually huge for me given how laborious I’ve been engaged on the model. I truly gave that stuff to Giannis earlier than Recreation 6. I gave him, PJ Tucker and Jrue Vacation somewhat bundle. However Giannis placing it on for that day, for the championship celebration, that’s historical past. That meant loads to me and exhibits the kind of respect that he has for me. And I bought the identical for him. 

For Giannis, I bought one message: Simply maintain going. Hold God first. And I’ll say it once more—the more durable you’re employed throughout peace, the much less you bleed throughout conflict. Keep on that path. And turn into greater than basketball. 

Lastly, to the trustworthy Bucks nation: 50 years. The drought is over. That is what you waited on. That is what you needed. Now it’s time to take that very same power and maintain bringing it yearly. As a result of when you’re a champion, you’re ceaselessly a champion. You’ll be able to’t flip down now.

It’s nonetheless, and all the time might be, Bucks in 6. 

SLAM 234 is offered now in these unique Gold and Black Metallic Editions.

Photographs through Getty Photographs.

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